Athlon Says Lane Kiffin Has Hottest Coaching Hot Seat in 2013, and It's Right

Lisa Horne@LisaHornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterMarch 8, 2013

Lane Kiffin
Lane KiffinUSA TODAY Sports

USC's Lane Kiffin has collected another No. 1 ranking to add to his resume.

Athlon Sports has deemed Kiffin's hot seat the Mt. Vesuvius of all coaching hot seats. From Athlon Sports:

USC’s 2012 season has to be one of the most disappointing years from a BCS team in recent memory. The Trojans had national title aspirations but were physically dominated by Stanford in Week 3 and finished the year with losses in five out of their final six games. USC is still dealing with scholarship limitations from NCAA sanctions, so Kiffin doesn’t have a full complement of players and had to scale back tackling in practice to prevent injuries. And after last year’s disappointing mark, Kiffin shuffled the coaching staff, with Clancy Pendergast coming over from California to coordinate the defense. Despite the scholarship limitations, the pressure is still high on Kiffin to produce. The Trojans have enough talent to push UCLA and Arizona State for the Pac-12 South title in 2013. However, another 7-6 record could spell the end of Kiffin’s tenure in Los Angeles.

Yes, Kiffin is sitting on a volcano. His job is in jeopardy if USC doesn't beat Stanford, Notre Dame or UCLA this year—preferably all three—and this latest ranking is going to hurt USC's recruiting down the road.

Unless, of course, Kiffin pulls a 10-win season out of his visor. 

As it stands, Kiffin is 0-3 vs. Stanford, 2-1 vs. UCLA, 1-2 vs. Notre Dame and 1-2 vs. Oregon—that alone justifies his hot-seat status. This year USC avoids Oregon from the North, but the team still has that pesky Stanford on its conference slate—it also has resurgent UCLA from the South and its annual rivalry game with Notre Dame.

Kiffin didn't get a lot of breaks on the schedule, so if he manages to produce a solid season, that will certainly bode well for him. In all honesty, churning out a 9-3 record without Stanford or Oregon on the schedule would have only prolonged the inevitable, wouldn't it?

Unpleasant as the subject is, Athlon Sports is spot on in ranking Kiffin's job as the one most in jeopardy. Everybody hates to see a team start the season knowing its coach's job is hanging on 75 or so shoulders, and that may affect the Trojans down the road.

Will Kiffin continue to call the plays when most of the fans don't like his vanilla taste and repetitive nature? Football fans aren't always that lucid in thought after five hours of tailgating and three quarts of beer, but LA is among the toughest fanbases in the country. 

Not Philly-fan tough—Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is a pretty mild environment when compared to Lincoln Financial Field, where the NFL's Eagles play—but they are tough to please. LA fans are notorious bandwagoners, and they'll let their voices be heard to upper-level management in the most effective way possible—through their wallets.

An LA fan doesn't show up to boo a team—he just doesn't show up. Or he goes to his crosstown rival's games—he wants to be associated with a winning team. Right now, the LA Clippers have a higher-per-game attendance average than the LA Lakers.

Think about that. 

Los Angeles likes winners. The LA Kings and the UCLA Bruins should see spikes in attendance this year. But if the Trojans don't improve vastly from last year's 7-6 performance, the Coliseum will look like the Rose Bowl toward the end of the Rick Neuheisel era.

USC athletic director Pat Haden won't ignore an empty Coliseum, but he should be commended for giving Kiffin a reasonable amount of time to meet expectations. The scholarship sanctions have hurt USC, and while Kiffin has had tremendous success in recruiting, the end results haven't materialized.

Four years should be enough time to give a coach a chance to coach his own players—Kiffin is in his fourth year. Five years may come into play for Kiffin if USC doesn't have a great season, because Kiffin is still short-handed with scholarship players—he's technically doing very well with 10 fewer players than every team he faced last year. 

Then again, the Trojans had more blue-chip players than the Arizona Wildcats, and USC still lost 39-36. It's games like those that lost former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis his job. 

So it's official.

Kiffin is sitting on the hottest seat in college football. We already knew this, but for many Trojan fans, this is a little bit of a come-to-Jesus moment. It's real. 

A lot of what happens to Kiffin at the end of the year depends on whether butts are in seats.

Beating UCLA, Stanford and Notre Dame will keep the Coliseum seats warm—losing to Arizona will not—but such victories may also temper the heat emanating from the seat on which Kiffin sits.


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